When I heard that Bennett College was in danger of losing their accreditation, I was overcome with emotion. I didn’t know much about Bennett but I knew that it was one of two all-women HBCUs. I was very aware of Julianne Malveaux, Bennett’s 15th president. However, learning of their history, I became passionate about the well-being of this amazing institution. I’d heard of other HBCUs dealing with accreditation issues. Even my own HBCU Fort Valley State University dealt with an accreditation warning that spooked the students at my institution. We were worried but all we could do is wait. It seemed as if we were powerless to shape the outcome of what would happen, good or bad. This time is different for me though. It’s different for all of us. We have the power to save Bennett College.
Christmas Day is my birthday. I was born on December 25, 1996. Normally, people take a break on Christmas. Birthdays are times to turn up and be lit. My definition of lit is different. I think its lit that we’re going to be doing a whole Bennett College takeover on my birthday/Christmas Day. We’re going to learn more about the history of Bennett College and the history-making women that she’s produced. One of these women is Brooke Ashley Kane.
Brooke serves as the 2018-2019 Miss Bennett College. Brooke has been the most outspoken advocate for Bennett, securing tons of support from the HBCU community. Today, we were privileged with the opportunity to work alongside Brooke and Bennett College as they push to secure $5 million dollars by February to keep the doors of the historic institution open. Today, Brooke is doing a takeover of our HBCU Pulse Instagram page. Also, we talked with her about her time at Bennett and what we can do to aid in helping Bennett maintain its accreditation.
MAKE SURE TO VOTE FOR Brooke TO BE AN EBONY CAMPUS QUEEN AT THE LINK BELOW! VOTING IS UNLIMITED AND IS OPEN UNTIL JANUARY 31ST! LINK BELOW!
Randall: Thank you so much for allowing me to do this interview! Truly an honor! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Brooke: My name is Brooke Ashley Kane. I am a graduating senior, political science major from Upper Marlboro, MD. I serve as the 39th Miss Bennett College for the 2018-2019 academic school year.
Randall: How was your high school career?
Brooke: In high school I was a cheerleader all four years, a member of the yearbook club and in the National Honor Society.
Randall: How’d you end up at Bennett College?
Brooke: I originally only applied to a couple of colleges and I assumed that I was going to get accepted into my number one choice. Sadly, I was not accepted and that left me feeling defeated and feared that I would have to go to the local Community College. One weekend my mother took/dragged me to a HBCU college fair at Bowie State University. I stopped at Bennett College’s table mostly because it was the only HBCU there that I had never heard of. The admissions person took my transcript, gave me the application to complete and said come back in 15 minutes. When I returned to her table, she informed me that I was accepted on the spot and offered me a partial academic scholarship. I could not believe that I was accepted and it was one of the happiest moments in my life.
Randall: What made you choose to major in Political Science? What do you want to do after graduation with that degree?
Brooke: I chose political science because I am interested in our political system and the laws that make it up. We as African Americans need to be better educated about law and our rights including the right to vote. Voting is important because it provides people a mechanism to voice their opinion and what they believe in. It’s especially important for African Americans to exercise our right to vote because many of our ancestors died in the fight for the privilege of freedom and full citizenship. We know that despite the laws established in our constitution, that there are those who try to discourage and otherwise deter us from exercising our right to vote. They think and hope that Black folks are not smart enough to understand the value of each vote. As young adults, we must recognize the role we play and will play in the future of this country and the world. We must take seriously our responsibility to stay politically and socially aware of what is happening around us. Our individual vote is silent in sound but, when joined with other individual votes, speaks loudly and distinctly about what we want and expect.
Randall: Let’s talk about your college experience! I want to go through your first few years at Bennett! How was your:
- Fresh(wo)man Year?
Brooke: My freshwoman year was very exciting because I became Miss Freshwoman within the first 3 weeks of school. I was nervous but I learned how to network and introduce myself on campus. I learned that everyone does not have the best of intentions for you and it is up to you to stand tall when faced with negativity. I also ran for Miss Sophomore, but I lost. From that experience I learned and grew from the loss.
- Sophomore Year?
Brooke: In my sophomore year I was involved in the Student Retention team, Pre-Alumae Council and Student Union Activities Board (SUAB). During this particular time I was struggling within myself and became depressed, but I didn’t understand why I was so sad. Then I felt ashamed because I thought I wasn’t doing enough at Bennett. My mentor told me to go to the counselor because it would allow me to talk about what I was feeling and why I was feeling this way. I learned that even the strongest people have to go to therapy and it is not healthy to hold things in.
- Junior Year?
Brooke: In my junior year I continued to be involved in the Student Union Activities Board (SUAB) and the Pre-Alumnae Council. I was falling in love with the woman I was becoming and going after my goals that were scary and exciting as the same time. I became a woman of the Omicron Delta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and within a couple of weeks I became the 39th Miss Bennett College for the 2018-2019 academic school year. I was extremely happy to have achieved both my goals and I am so proud of myself for not letting fear over power my inner strength.
Randall: Bennett has experienced recent hardship. Your institution has been on accreditation probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges for two years due to financial and enrollment struggles. Could you explain to us what’s going on?
Brooke: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) removed Bennett College from the SACSCOC membership. We are fighting for an appeal and during this time Bennett College will retain its accreditation.
Randall: President Phyllis Worthy Dawkins announced Tuesday that Bennett has appealed the decision and will be appearing at a hearing on February 18th in hopes of convincing the commission to reverse the decision to strip accreditation. What can we do to help as concerned HBCU advocates?
Brooke: We ask that all HBCUs use the #StandwithBennett on all of their social media accounts and donate to this link: https://web4110.campusnet.net/OnlineGiving_406/site/donate.aspx?siteid=060f6ef2-f060-491f-9b58-adcf6831b337&LinkID=d7ad7e10-971b-4e07-bb6b-947371284b89 . Also spread the word to different celebrities and others that can donate to Bennett College. We thank all the HBCUs for standing with us during this time.
Randall: In your opinion, what is the role of accredited student leaders such as Royal Court and SGA in times such as this?
Brooke: We as student leaders must advocate for our school. Bennett has done so much for us and why not fight for her. Bennett College is one of two all women HBCUs and it is the land of black girl magic. Student Leaders must use every resource we have including social media for our voices to be heard and to let the world know that Bennett College is a jewel that must not be dismissed.
Randall: What made you want to run to be Miss Bennett?
Brooke: I aspired to become Miss Bennett College while serving as Miss Freshwoman in the 2015-16 academic year, but after losing the Miss Sophomore election, I knew I had work to do! After the loss, I regrouped and decided to use my sophomore and junior years to become involved in other Bennett organizations including the Student Union Activity Board (SUAB), Student Ambassadors, Divine Unity, and the Pre-Alumnae Association. I also served on the Student Retention team, where my Bennett sisters and I worked together with the Vice President of Student Affairs to brainstorm ideas, programs and solutions to keep students here at Bennett and ways to improve our institution for incoming students of the following academic year. I learned a lot about how Bennett College runs behind the scenes and I had the privilege to provide input to our school leadership. Through these experiences, I developed a greater love for Bennett College.
Randall: Tell us about your campaign!
- What was your platform?
Brooke: My platform slogan was “Strength of the Belle”. The key things I focused on were strengthening our sisterhood, anti-bullying campaign, bringing new community service programs, networking with other HBCUs and sisterhood empowerment programs.
- What were strategies that you used to reach the students to garner their support?
Brooke: I campaigned for 10 days in the student union where I promote my campaign and had activities to show how “Strength of Belle” applies here at Bennett College. I also went to the dorms on my campus and had real sister chats with my Bennett sisters. This helped them get to know me on deeper level rather than just a political figure.
- What were some problems that you encountered in your campaign and how did you overcome them?
Brooke: I was fearful that I was not going to do a great job on my campaign and I was nervous because I was working to achieve one of the biggest goals that I had set for myself. It’s hard campaigning for a campus queen position. You have to have tough skin and not let others around you make you feel as if you are not qualified for the position you are running for. I overcame them by saying this to myself every day “ your strength and faith can and will move mountains. This helped me to believe that I am qualified to run and and to win. I prayed that God would take away my fears and full me will strength to move past anything in my way.
- How’d it feel when you found out that you won?
Brooke: I cried so hard because I could not believe it and I had no words to express how happy I was. In that moment I knew dreams and hard work do come true.
- Tell us about your coronation! How was it and how were you feeling?
Brooke: My coronation was awesome. My theme was “Black Butterfly”. “The black butterfly represents change, transition, freedom, and rebirth. It also symbolizes new life from an old one. A powerful transformation”. I used this theme because a Black Butterfly pushes through with faith and strength because she rises even higher when struggles comes her way. On coronation day, I was so excited and nervous because I couldn’t believe this special day was here and that all my hard work had paid off. This was the day I really felt as if the queen in me was shining as bright as the sun and I hope it was an example to my Bennett sisters that your dreams will come true and your crown tilts for no one.
Randall: How’d it feel to meet HBCU queens from other schools?
Brooke: Many of the HBCU queens I meet through social media and the conferences this past summer. All of my sister queens were so humble, kind and welcoming when I met them. One in particular was my sister queen Miss Maroon & White, Anta. We connected so easily because she is the queen of Bennett’s official brother school, Morehouse College.
Randall: What’s next for you in your reign?
Brooke: I wanted achieve the other goals that I set for my reign and continue to bring new opportunities to my Bennett sisters and Bennett College. I want to become a better me and help my institution raise five million dollars before February 18.
Randall: How do you want your reign to be remembered?
Brooke: I want to be remembered as the “Everlasting 39th”. The queen who stepped outside of her comfort zone and believed and achieved what she set her mind to do. It’s not how you look on the outside, it’s about who you are inside because anyone can look the part but some cannot do the job. I want to be remembered as the queen who showed her Bennett sisters that being a Queen does not mean you’re perfect, instead that you are human. Your crown tilts for NO One.
Find Brooke on social media!
Facebook: Brooke Ashley